High Country Baking: Enjoy a rustic and sophisticated plum and port galette
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Can a dessert be both rustic and sophisticated? Take one taste of this galette and you’ll answer with a resounding YES. It’s fruit baked in a buttery crust, as unpretentious as lunch at the kitchen table. But once it’s cloaked in velvety port syrup and served warm with a creamy accompaniment, it becomes very adult, gains dining-room status and ends an evening celebration with style.
The port and the plums determine its success. Use a port you like to drink and plums you like to eat that are ripe but not soft. I used black plums in the galette in the photo but red plums will work just as well.
Why the crumbled graham crackers or cookies? They provide a barrier between the juices yielded by the baked fruit and the bottom crust that prevents the crust from getting soggy. They’re optional, but definitely worth including. To make them, whirl a few crackers/cookies in a food processor or place them in a plastic bag, close it, and roll/smash them with a rolling pin or heavy skillet until crushed.
Plum and Port Galette
Make on a cookie sheet
1 unbaked pie or galette crust, home-made or commercial
2 cups tawny port
½ cup plus 2 tablespoon packed golden brown sugar
1 ¼ pounds plums (about 5 large black or red plums)
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
Generous ¼ cup crumbled graham crackers or shortbread cookies, optional
Generous ¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cream or milk
1. Preheat the oven to 375° with a rack in the center. Pour the tawny port into a large skillet or saucepan, stir in ½ cup of the brown sugar and boil, checking it often, until it becomes syrupy and reduces to 2/3 of a cup, from 10-15 minutes.
2. Wash and pit the plums. Cut each plum in half and cut each half into six slices, so each plum yields twelve ¼-inch-thick, crescent-shaped slices. If you use smaller plums each of them may only yield eight ¼-inch-thick slices. Dump these into a large bowl, sprinkle the flour and one tablespoon of brown sugar over them and toss them well so they’re coated with the mixture. Add a generous ¼ cup of the port syrup (cover the rest and refrigerate it to serve with the galette) and toss again.
3. Roll out your crust between two sheets of parchment paper to a 12-inch circle. If it’s soft, chill until firm. Carefully remove the top piece of parchment and place the crust, on the bottom sheet of parchment, on a cookie sheet. If your crust is already rolled to a 12-inch circle, place it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. If using them, sprinkle the cracker/cookie crumbs evenly over the crust, leaving a 1½-inch border. Spoon the plum slices over the crumbs (or, if not using crumbs, directly on the crust, leaving a 1½ -inch border.) Drizzle any of the syrup in the bottom of the bowl over the plums.
4. Scatter the walnuts over the plum slices. Carefully fold the edges of the crust over the filling, taking care not to stretch it. Check for tears or weak spots and repair them. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and cream until blended and brush on the crust (there will be a lot left over). Sprinkle the plums and crust with one tablespoon brown sugar, patting it into the crust until it sticks to it. Chill the galette on the parchment-lined cookie sheet until the crust is firm, about 10 minutes in a freezer or 20 minutes in the fridge. You can bake the galette without this step, but chilling it before baking results in a better shaped and more tender crust.
5. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the crust is golden, the plums are soft and any visible syrup is bubbling, about 45-50 minutes if the unbaked galette was chilled, a little less time if it wasn’t. If the crust browns before the filling is done, cover it with strips of aluminum foil. Cool on a rack, with the galette still on the parchment paper. When it’s cool, carefully slide a large metal spatula or the bottom of a tart pan under it and transfer it to a serving platter or cardboard cake circle. It cuts easily when cool (use a thin-bladed, sharp knife and press straight down; don’t saw). Re-warm cut pieces in a 325° oven. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and a drizzle of the reserved port syrup. It’s best the day it’s made but still good the following day. Store, well covered, in the refrigerator.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
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